Kathy Sewell has bitten the bullet and is asking for help.

The Hauraki Animal Rescue Team (HART) owner, based in Paeroa, has made changes to her cat shelter to dodge prosecution and continue to take in stray cats. But those changes mean she will require help from the community as foster families.

Kathy was issued an enforcement order in September from SPCA New Zealand to correct issues on her property which has nine enclosures. She is to have no more than 15 cats at a time.

Her problems came to a head when she was inundated with 40 cats in December last year, a situation she puts down to Waihi SPCA temporarily closing over the holidays.


''I used to work at 20-25 cats but when I got that big lump in, I was inundated. It was not a normal situation at all. It happened to be at the time the SPCA closed and all these people were putting kittens and cats in my direction and I couldn't say no because some of them were sick...''

It was hard, but homes were found and she is glad it is over.

But being restricted to 15 cats is also hard, Kathy says, with kitten season coming up. She would like the amount taken up to 20 for the upcoming season.

''Fifteen is a drop in the bucket. Sometimes people bring in a feral cat with her kittens, how am I supposed to say no to that? And if I get in a couple of mum cats with their kittens... that pushes me right up to that limit.''

She is desperately worried about turning away litters of kittens — and is not sure she can do it.

Kathy has been running HART for 18 years. She has had more than 550 cats desexed and adopted out more than 3000 cats.

She's seen the worst in people in her time.

People have dumped kittens outside Waihi's HART opportunity shop, outside her front door and down her road.

Kathy Sewell at HART opportunity shop in Waihi. Photo Rebecca Mauger
Kathy Sewell at HART opportunity shop in Waihi. Photo Rebecca Mauger

''They just don't want them. If I say no, they're not above dumping them down the road. Then they start their own little colony and here we go again.''

What she needs more than anything is foster families who can take kittens after they are weaned from their mothers until they are ready for adoption.

''I can take the mums but it would help me if I could have some people who will take care of the litters, to raise the kittens before they are ready to be adopted.

''I am a one-man band here.''

Kathy has had a difficult year. She cared for her mother who passed away in March and her husband was injured and couldn't help with the upkeep of the property. She had bronchitis. She's also had a few of her helpers leave. She admits the upkeep of her property has become a lot for her.

''They felt it was too much for me,'' she says.

But her husband is on the mend and they're waiting for a break in the weather to do weed whacking and general tidying up.

One of the issues she had to correct was concreting or placing linoleum in all enclosures, she says, which she has done.

She says the SPCA have re-inspected the property and are happy with their work. She will be regularly inspected.

The SPCA was approached for comment but said it was unable to and cited privacy reasons regarding any past investigations.

''I'm getting to the stage in the next two or three years I may need to finish up. But I don't want to and I won't give up totally.''

The HART shop in Waihi started in 2017. Kathy was defleaing, worming and desexing cats using her own pension money prior to the shop opening.

Kathy works there two days a week. Some help in the shop would also be greatly appreciated, she says.

''People could help sorting, cleaning and then till work. And the more people who donate and buy, the more cats we can help.''

If you can help Kathy, send her a message via Kathy Sewell Facebook page.